Bowing to pressure from Quaker environmentalists, today PNC Bank announced that it will be restricting financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. The shift outlined in its 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report means PNC Bank will effectively cease its investment in this controversial practice.
In 2012 PNC Bank financed Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, CONSOL Energy, and Patriot Coal, which together were responsible for nearly half (44.97%) of Appalachian mountaintop removal production (1). PNC’s total investment was $687.5 million for that year.
The grassroots group leading the charge for PNC’s new policy, Earth Quaker Action Team, hails the change as a major shift by the seventh largest US bank. “When we initiated our campaign in 2010, PNC attempted to placate us with a hollow policy. It’s good to see that PNC Bank is now taking meaningful steps,” says Matthew Armstead, staff coordinator for EQAT. “Since this shift happened because of external pressure, it should be a wake-up call for everyone that the power of change lies with regular citizen activists.”
According to EQAT’s analysis, PNC’s changes in investment will sever ties with the two largest companies (Alpha and Arch). Given Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy and CONSOL Energy’s imminent shifting out of mountaintop removal, PNC Bank will be left without any major investments in mountaintop removal.
Mountaintop removal has long been criticized for its negative environmental and health impacts. This process of getting coal from a mountain involves blowing up the top of the mountain and dumping the remains into rivers and valleys. The contaminants from the dynamite hang in the air and the sludge and residue from this process poisons water (2). Scientists note the impact of burning dirty coal is speeding up global climate change.